The 10 Best Inflatable Kayaks

Updated May 11, 2018 by Quincy Miller

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We spent 43 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top selections for this wiki. While going out on the water in a blow-up boat may sound risky, these inflatable kayaks are actually quite durable — and tons of fun. They're easy to store and transport, so you can still get out on the lake without having to constantly trip over a giant ship in your garage. Some can even handle rapids, which is a completely different form of risk. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best inflatable kayak on Amazon.

10. Advanced Elements Strait Edge

The Advanced Elements Strait Edge has integrated aluminum ribs to define the bow and improve its tracking capabilities. It is a smart choice for those who often navigate rough seas, as it has a self-bailing design, plus it comes with two rod holders for fishing excursions.
  • comfortable foam mesh back support
  • puncture-resistant pvc
  • seats aren't particularly comfy
Model AE1006-Y
Weight 47.1 pounds
Rating 3.9 / 5.0

9. Coleman Quikpak K1

The Coleman Quikpak K1 comes with a tarpaulin bottom that provides protection from punctures, so you don't have to worry too much if you can't see what's underneath you in the water (although you should definitely worry about that if you tend to fall out occasionally).
  • can inflate in just 5 minutes
  • easy-to-carry backpack system
  • suffers a lot of drag
Brand Sevylor
Model 2000014137
Weight 19.8 pounds
Rating 4.0 / 5.0

8. Airhead Montana Performance

The Airhead Montana Performance is a solidly constructed 12-foot, two-person model that fits easily into the trunk of your car, duffel bag, or large suitcase when deflated. It stands up nicely to rapids, as well as unexpected rocks you might encounter along the way.
  • front and back spray covers
  • 6 d-rings to attach gear
  • not ideal for lake use
Brand Airhead
Model AHTK-2
Weight 46.9 pounds
Rating 4.9 / 5.0

7. Solstice Swimline Flare

There are screw-type drain valves on the Solstice Swimline Flare, so if any water gets into the boat, you can get it out just as easily. The sleek red-and-gray design is more attractive than many of the other options on the market, too.
  • works well in any conditions
  • fairly durable for an inflatable
  • seat is poor quality
Brand Solstice
Model 29615
Weight 30.1 pounds
Rating 3.9 / 5.0

6. Sevylor Big Basin

Couples can take their kid along in the Sevylor Big Basin, as there's plenty of room for a third. It boasts a variety of air chambers as well, giving you some insurance if one gets pierced (and let's face it, your child isn't going to be much help paddling in fast water).
  • bottle holder for each seat
  • great for taller users
  • very slow to dry
Brand Sevylor
Model 2000014131
Weight 45.4 pounds
Rating 4.2 / 5.0

5. Intex Challenger K1

If you're on a budget but still want to ply the waters, the Intex Challenger K1 can't be beat. It provides users weighing 220 pounds or less with a comfortable cockpit and a surprisingly smooth ride at an excellent price, and it even includes a cargo net.
  • front and rear grab lines
  • includes an 84-inch aluminum oar
  • skeg falls off frequently
Brand Intex
Model K1-68305
Weight 26.5 pounds
Rating 4.4 / 5.0

4. Sea Eagle Pro

The Sea Eagle Pro can hold up to 650 pounds of stuff, so it can be used for paddling, fishing, yacht tending, and even as a platform for scuba diving. It features lashed-down spray skirts to give you a little protection when the rapids — or weather — take a turn.
  • includes a pump and carrying bag
  • saltwater and uv-resistant hull
  • good choice for taking pets along
Brand Sea Eagle
Model SE370K_P
Weight 54 pounds
Rating 4.7 / 5.0

3. Intex Explorer K2

There's room for you and your plus-one in the Intex Explorer K2, making it a smart choice for outdoorsy dates. It is equipped with a removable skeg, which makes it good for beginners, while also being versatile enough that experienced kayakers can still enjoy it.
  • ideal for ponds and lakes
  • backrest on each seat
  • easy to drain when done
Brand Intex
Model 68307EP
Weight 31.3 pounds
Rating 4.9 / 5.0

2. Airhead Deluxe

The 9-foot Airhead Deluxe hides four fins on its bottom, so it slices through water like a hot knife through butter. If you're just starting out, or your shoulders can only take so much paddling, this is a good low-impact model that still manages to be plenty of fun.
  • double-layered nylon
  • works well in mild rapids
  • lightweight and easy to lug around
Brand Airhead
Model AHTK-1
Weight 26 pounds
Rating 5.0 / 5.0

1. Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Sport

Unlike most other models in this category, the Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Sport has an enclosed cockpit that is easy to enter and exit while still offering plenty of legroom. It is suitable for nearly all water conditions, so you can take it anywhere.
  • easy to fold up when finished using
  • extremely stable
  • glides through water smoothly
Model AE1017-O
Weight 37.1 pounds
Rating 4.6 / 5.0

A Brief History Of The Kayak

The word kayak comes from a Greenlandic language closely related to the traditional tongue shared by the Inuit and Aleuts of North America. The term is a derivation of the native word qajaq, pronounced kah-djak, and which can be traced back across many centuries. Kayaks have long been used by these denizens of the frozen northlands both for hunting and travel.

The original kayaks were made primarily of seal skin (and occasionally from the hides of other animals) stitched together and then stretched over a frame made out of whale bones or, when it was available, wood. Kayaks have likely been in use for more than 4,000 years and examples of these hearty, resilient boats are still made in the original manner today, though almost exclusively for demonstration purposes, not for practical daily use.

By the early half of the 20th Century, wooden frames and fabric hulls had come to be common in kayak design, but in the 1950s, the advent of practical, easy to use fiberglass saw this material briefly dominant in kayak construction. The use of fiberglass would see a decline almost as quickly as it had become ascendant, however, as in the early 1970s molded plastic kayaks quickly became the most popular units available.

Plastic kayaks were smaller, stronger, and more affordable than fiberglass boats, and they could be made in a wider variety of shapes and sizes, ushering in the era of freestyle paddling that has gained enough popularly today to be an Olympic sport.

Today, kayaking is enjoyed by millions of people all over the globe, with different boat designs offering the chance for an ocean adventure, a white water ride, or a trip down a lazy river. Kayaks are used by some people as their preferred means for daily commuting and by others while out on a fishing trip. If you are interested in kayaking, you will also be interested to know that the hobby can be an affordable one to commence, especially when you consider an inflatable kayak.

In recent years, these plucky boats have seen a marked increase in popularity, especially with urban residents who have limited storage space but still want to own a great, compact boat.

An Inflatable Kayak Fit For Fun

You will be pleasantly surprised at how very little an inflatable kayak that's actually of very good quality can cost. There are many inflatable kayaks that cost well under one hundred dollars, and these little boats often come complete with paddles and pumps, no less. Choosing an inflatable kayak starts with considering who will use it.

If you are getting a boat that will only be for yourself or another person, than a one person kayak is fine. But keep in mind that even many two seat kayaks can easily be controlled by one person, so if you want the option to occasionally paddle along with a friend, consider a two person boat even if you will often use it solo.

Next consider where you will primarily be using your kayak. If you will use the boat only in lakes and on calm rivers, then you can hardly make a poor choice.

If the kayak will encounter the occasional rapids, then you need to factor in extra durability and puncture resistance. Look for kayaks with semi rigid hulls that can handle impacts with rocks, submerged logs, and other obstacles that tend to hide beneath white water.

If your kayak will be used in the open water of a bay or the sea, then stability is an important factor what with waves and boat wake. A longer, wider boat can help you stay upright under these conditions, and can help you bring along some food, water, and other supplies you might want during a longer outing as well.

The Inflatable Kayak Ready For Adventure

Believe it or not, there are inflatable kayaks ready for everything from a use during a fishing trip to use during a run down rapids to use in the frigid waters of the Arctic Circle. Top of the line inflatable kayaks can compete with standard rigid-bodied kayaks in almost every respect, though you will have to be ready to pay top dollar for these quality options.

When selecting a kayak for use during a fishing trip or for use during the course of many days, such as with a camping trip featuring river travel, you need a boat that can handle plenty of weight and that offers excellent stability. That usually means a larger kayak that might not be as nimble when shooting through rapids or making quick turns on open water, but you need to be ready to sacrifice some performance in the name of payload capacity and in reduced likelihood of capsizing.

For plying frosty waters or for paddling your way through whitewater, you need a kayak with a cockpit you sit down in and which can accommodate a skirt, commonly called a spray deck. Only when you are securely strapped into your boat with a water tight seal created around the cockpit can you safely run through rapids without the risk of taking on water. This same seal helps to keep you safely insulated in icy waters, especially if your boat tips over. When you rapidly get yourself rightsize up and still have a kayak that's dry inside, you can safely continue on your exciting journey.

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Last updated on May 11, 2018 by Quincy Miller

Quincy is a writer who was born in Texas, but moved to Los Angeles to pursue his life-long dream of someday writing a second page to one of his screenplays.

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